Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Since its launch in 2005, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism. BDS is an inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement that is opposed on principle to all forms of discrimination, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.

BOYCOTTS involve withdrawing support from Israel’s apartheid regime, complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, and from all Israeli and international companies engaged in violations of Palestinian human rights.

DIVESTMENT campaigns urge banks, local councils, churches, pension funds and universities to withdraw investments from the State of Israel and all Israeli and international companies that sustain Israeli apartheid.

SANCTIONS campaigns pressure governments to fulfil their legal obligations to end Israeli apartheid, and not aid or assist its maintenance, by banning business with illegal Israeli settlements, ending military trade and free-trade agreements, as well as suspending Israel’s membership in international forums such as UN bodies and FIFA.

The Call for BDS 

In 2005, Palestinian civil society organisations called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel.

The BDS movement was launched by 170 Palestinian unions, refugee networks, women’s organisations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society bodies.

Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the Palestinian BDS call urges nonviolent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by meeting three demands:

Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall

International law recognises the West Bank including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied by Israel. As part of its military occupation, Israel steals land and forces Palestinians into ghettos, surrounded by checkpoints, settlements and watchtowers and an illegal apartheid Wall. Israel has imposed a medieval siege on Gaza , turning it into the largest open air prison in the world. Israel also regularly carries out large-scale assaults on Gaza that are widely condemned as constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.


Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality

One-fifth of Israel’s citizens are Palestinians who remained inside the armistice lines after 1948. They are subjected to a system of racial discrimination enshrined in more than 50 laws that impact every aspect of their lives. The Israeli government continues to forcibly displace Palestinian communities in Israel from their land. Israeli leaders routinely and openly incite racial violence against them.


Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194

Since its violent establishment in 1948 through the ethnic cleansing of more than half of the indigenous people of Palestine, Israel has set out to control as much land and uproot as many Palestinians as it can. As a result of this systematic forced displacement, there are now more than 7.25 million Palestinian refugees. They are denied their right to return to their homes simply because they are not Jewish


Since 1948, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights and has refused to comply with international law.

Israel maintains a regime of of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation over the Palestinian people. This is only possible because of international support. Governments fail to hold Israel to account, while corporations and institutions across the world help Israel to oppress Palestinians.

Because those in power refuse to act to stop this injustice, Palestinian civil society has called for a global citizens’ response of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.


Israeli universities are major, willing and persistent accomplices in Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid. They are involved in developing weapon systems and military doctrines deployed in Israel’s recent war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza, justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land, rationalizing gradual ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians, providing moral justification for extra-judicial killings, systematically discriminating against “non-Jewish” students, and other implicit and explicit violations of human rights and international law.

To end this complicity in Israel’s violations of international law, Palestinian civil society has called for an academic boycott of complicit Israeli academic institutions. Refusing to normalize oppression, many academic associations, student governments and unions as well as thousands of international academics now support the academic boycott of Israel.

For decades, Israeli universities have played a key role in planning, implementing and justifying Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies, while maintaining a uniquely close relationship with the Israeli military. Tel Aviv University, for example, has developed tens of weapon systems and the “Dahiya doctrine” of disproportionate force employed by the Israeli military in committing war crimes against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.

The University of Johannesburg in 2011 severed links with Ben Gurion University over its complicity in Israel’s human rights violations, including the theft of Palestinian water. A Human Rights Watch study reveals institutionalized racial discrimination against Palestinians throughout Israel’s education system, including universities.

The academic boycott that we are calling for is institutional. The BNC, including PACBI, upholds the universal right to academic freedom.  The institutional boycott called for by Palestinian civil society does not conflict with such freedom.  PACBI subscribes to the internationally-accepted definition of academic freedom as adopted by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (UNESCR).Anchored in precepts of international law and universal human rights, the BDS movement, including PACBI, rejects on principle boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion.  If, however, an individual is representing the state of Israel or a complicit Israeli institution (such as a dean, rector, or president), or is commissioned/recruited to participate in Israel’s efforts to “rebrand” itself, then her/his activities are subject to the institutional boycott the BDS movement is calling for.  Mere affiliation of Israeli scholars to an Israeli academic institution is therefore not grounds for applying the boycott.

The full Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel can be read here.

No. Academic boycott targets institutions, not individuals. The only exception is when an individual academic is an official representative of, not merely affiliated to, her/his complicit Israeli academic institution. An individual academic, Israeli or otherwise, however, cannot be exempt from being subject to “common sense” boycotts (beyond the scope of the PACBI institutional boycott criteria) that conscientious citizens around the world may call for in response to egregious individual complicity in, responsibility for, or advocacy of war crimes or other grave human rights violations; incitement to violence; etc. At this level, Israeli academics should be treated like all other offenders in the same category, not better or worse. Note: The PACBI Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel are the authoritative guide for academic boycott of Israel. 

The academic boycott that we are calling for is institutional and therefore does not conflict with academic freedom.  The BNC, including PACBI, upholds the universal right to academic freedom.  PACBI subscribes to the internationally-accepted definition of academic freedom as adopted by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (UNESCR). Israeli academics may lose privileges, not rights, due to the boycott of their institutions.

Some opponents of the academic boycott may argue, still, that it contravenes academic freedom because it cannot but hurt individual academics if it is to be effective at all. This argument is problematic as it ignores the real and systematic Israeli suppression of Palestinian rights, including academic freedom.



Organize for an association or union to support the academic boycott 

Working towards getting an academic association or union to support the academic boycott of Israel is a great way to build support for Palestinian rights. We can help with ideas, strategizing, resources and model resolutions.


Start an academic boycott campaign on your campus 

An academic boycott campaign on campus aims to persuade a university to end an institutional relationship that it has with a complicit Israeli university or company and to convince academics and students to boycott Israeli universities. Get in touch for support and ideas about how to get started.


Research links with Israeli universities and arms companies 

Many universities around the world, especially in the west, have some kind of institutional relationship with complicit Israeli universities or Israeli military companies. Before campaigning or starting a conversation on campus about the academic boycott, it can be helpful to find out what links any specific university has. Searching university websites, using freedom of information inquiries, looking through databases such as the European Union Cordis database, and simply writing to the relevant staff at the university are good starting points.


Campaign against Israel’s involvement in international programs 

Government bodies help to normalize Israel’s violations of international law by facilitating its participation in international research programs such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), the Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX), and OECD schemes. Pressure your government to end this form of support for Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid.


Spread the word on your campus 

Many people are unaware of the ways in which Israel has persistently attacked and undermined the Palestinian right to education, including academic freedom, and the key role that Israeli universities play in Israel’s violations of international law. 


Build direct solidarity with Palestinian universities 

As well as campaigning for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, it’s important we also build direct academic links of solidarity with Palestinian universities and academics. Contact us or one of our partner organizations to discuss this further.

How does BDS help the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality?

The BDS movement aims to end international complicity in the Israeli regime of occupation, apartheid and settler colonialism.

Many companies such as Orange, Veolia and CRH have pulled out of Israel as a result of BDS campaigns.

As Israeli corporations, institutions and organizations become isolated or suffer economic setbacks due to international BDS campaigns, Israel, including business and society, will find it more difficult to maintain its oppression of Palestinians.

Each BDS success generates media attention and shines a light on the just Palestinian struggle for rights. The BDS movement is leading a tidal change in perceptions and approaches to Israel’s regime of oppression.

The growth and success of the BDS movement send a clear message of hope and inspiration to Palestinians and others that public opinion is increasingly supportive of the Palestinian people. The Israeli government now recognizes the potential of the BDS movement as a “strategic threat” to its system of injustice.